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DWI vs. DUI: How Sacramento Drunk Driving Law Differs

Posted by John Campanella | Mar 07, 2023 | 0 Comments

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a criminal offense in Sacramento, California, which is essentially the same as a DUI (Driving Under the Influence). Under California law, a DWI or DUI refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The state has strict laws in place to deter and punish impaired driving, including a "per se" law that prohibits driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. If you are suspected of DWI or DUI in Sacramento, a police officer may administer field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test to measure your BAC. Refusing to take a chemical test can result in automatic license suspension.

Penalty differences in DWIs vs. DUIs

The penalties for DWIs (Driving While Intoxicated) and DUIs (Driving Under the Influence) can vary depending on the state and the circumstances of the offense. However, in general, both offenses are considered serious criminal offenses that can result in severe legal and personal consequences.

In Sacramento, California, the penalties for a first-time DUI conviction can include up to six months in jail, fines of up to $1,000, license suspension for up to six months, and mandatory attendance at a DUI school.

A second DUI offense within ten years of the first can result in up to one year in jail, fines of up to $1,000, license suspension for up to two years, and mandatory attendance at a DUI school. Subsequent offenses can result in even harsher penalties.

For DWIs, the penalties can be similar to those for DUIs. However, some states may have stricter penalties for DWIs, particularly for repeat offenses. Additionally, some states may use different terms to describe impaired driving, such as OUI (Operating Under the Influence) or OWI (Operating While Intoxicated).

It is important to note that the penalties for DWIs and DUIs can also vary based on factors such as the driver's BAC level, whether there was property damage or injuries involved, and whether the driver has previous convictions for impaired driving. It is critical to never drink and drive to avoid serious legal and personal consequences.

Steps to take after DWI or DUI arrests in Sacramento

If you have been arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Sacramento, there are several steps you should take:

  1. Contact a DUI lawyer: The first step you should take is to contact a DUI lawyer who is experienced in handling DUI cases in Sacramento. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process and help you understand your rights and options.

  2. Attend your arraignment: Your arraignment is your first court appearance, where you will be formally charged with the DUI offense. It is important to attend your arraignment to avoid a bench warrant being issued for your arrest.

  3. Request a DMV hearing: You have 10 days from the date of your arrest to request a DMV hearing. This hearing is separate from your criminal case and is related to the suspension of your driver's license. Your DUI lawyer can help you with this process.

  4. Consider plea bargaining: Depending on the circumstances of your case, your DUI lawyer may recommend plea bargaining. This involves negotiating with the prosecutor to reduce your charges or penalties in exchange for a guilty plea.

  5. Prepare for trial: If your case goes to trial, your DUI lawyer will help you prepare your defense. This may involve gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and preparing for cross-examination.

Here are some questions to ask your lawyer:

1. What does DUI stand for?

DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence." It typically refers to operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

2. What does DWI stand for?

DWI stands for "Driving While Intoxicated" or "Driving While Impaired." Like DUI, it generally refers to operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

3. Is there a difference between a DUI and a DWI?

The difference between a DUI and DWI can depend on the state's laws where the offense occurred. Some states use the terms interchangeably, while others differentiate between them based on factors like the driver's age or the level of impairment.

4. Is one charge more serious than the other?

The seriousness of a DUI versus a DWI can vary by jurisdiction. Some states treat them as the same offense, while others may consider one more serious than the other based on specific criteria.

5. What substances can lead to a DUI or DWI?

Both DUI and DWI charges can result from the use of alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medication, over-the-counter drugs, or any substance that impairs a person's ability to drive safely.

6. What is BAC, and how does it relate to DUI and DWI?

BAC stands for "Blood Alcohol Content." It's a measure of the amount of alcohol in a person's bloodstream. In many jurisdictions, a BAC level of 0.08% or higher can result in a DUI or DWI charge.

7. Can I refuse a breathalyzer test?

In many states, you technically can refuse a breathalyzer test; however, doing so often leads to automatic penalties, such as license suspension, due to implied consent laws.

8. What are the penalties for DUI and DWI?

Penalties can include fines, jail time, license suspension, probation, mandatory alcohol education programs, and the installation of an ignition interlock device. The exact penalties depend on the jurisdiction, the circumstances of the offense, and the offender's history.

9. Can a DUI or DWI charge be contested in court?

Yes, a DUI or DWI charge can be contested in court. A defense attorney may challenge the legality of the traffic stop, the administration of the sobriety tests, or the accuracy of the breathalyzer or blood test results.

10. What is a felony DUI/DWI?

A felony DUI/DWI typically involves circumstances that make the offense more serious, such as multiple DUI/DWI convictions, causing an accident or injury, or having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

11. Does a DUI or DWI affect my driving record?

Yes, a DUI or DWI conviction will typically appear on your driving record and can impact your insurance rates and even employment opportunities.

12. Can a DUI or DWI be expunged from my record?

In some states, it may be possible to have a DUI or DWI expunged from your record after a certain period and under certain conditions.

13. Can I get a DUI or DWI on a bicycle or boat?

In many states, DUI and DWI laws apply not only to motor vehicles but also to bicycles, boats, and other forms of transportation.

14. What is the legal BAC limit for drivers under 21?

In many states, there is a "zero tolerance" policy for drivers under 21, meaning any amount of alcohol can lead to a DUI or DWI.

15. What is an ignition interlock device?

An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer for an individual's vehicle. The driver must blow into the device to start the vehicle, and if alcohol is detected, the vehicle won't start.

16. Is a DUI or DWI a criminal offense?

Yes, a DUI or DWI is typically considered a criminal offense and will result in a criminal record.

17. What should I do if I'm pulled over for suspected DUI or DWI?

You should cooperate with law enforcement, but remember that you have rights. You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

18. Can I be charged with a DUI or DWI if I'm under the legal BAC limit?

In some jurisdictions, you can still be charged if your ability to drive is impaired, even if your BAC is under the legal limit.

19. How long does a DUI or DWI stay on my record?

This can vary by state but can range from a few years to a lifetime.

20. What is a sobriety checkpoint?

A sobriety checkpoint is a location where law enforcement officers are stationed to check drivers for signs of intoxication and impairment.

21. What is an administrative license suspension?

An administrative license suspension is a driver's license suspension imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent agency in your state, typically for refusing or failing a chemical test.

22. What does "implied consent" mean?

Implied consent refers to the presumption that, by driving a vehicle, you've consented to chemical testing for impairment if law enforcement suspects you of DUI or DWI.

23. How does a DUI or DWI conviction affect car insurance?

A DUI or DWI conviction often results in increased car insurance premiums, and in some cases, it could lead to policy cancellation.

24. What is a field sobriety test?

A field sobriety test is a series of physical or cognitive tests that law enforcement uses to determine if a driver is impaired.

25. Can prescription or over-the-counter medication result in a DUI or DWI?

Yes, any substance—legal or illegal—that impairs your ability to drive safely can potentially lead to a DUI or DWI charge.

26. Can I get a DUI or DWI expunged from my record?

Yes, depending on your state's laws, it may be possible to get a DUI or DWI expunged from your record.

27. How does a DUI or DWI affect my employment?

A DUI or DWI can affect employment, especially if the job involves driving. It can also affect future job opportunities since some employers may perform background checks.

28. What happens if I'm convicted of DUI or DWI in another state?

Most states participate in the Interstate Driver's License Compact and share information about DUI/DWI offenses. A conviction in one state can lead to penalties in your home state.

29. What happens if I get a DUI or DWI while driving a commercial vehicle?

The consequences for a DUI or DWI while driving a commercial vehicle are typically more severe and may result in the loss of a commercial driver's license.

30. Do I need a lawyer if I'm charged with a DUI or DWI?

While it's not legally required, hiring a lawyer who specializes in DUI/DWI cases can significantly improve your chances of a favorable outcome in court.

If you have been arrested for DWI or DUI in Sacramento, you may want to consider contacting the Law Offices of John Campanella. As an experienced DUI lawyer in Sacramento, John Campanella can provide you with the legal guidance and representation you need to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

John Campanella and his team understand the seriousness of DUI charges and will work tirelessly to defend your case. They can help you understand the legal process, including your DMV hearing and court appearances, and will provide you with the knowledge and support you need to make informed decisions throughout your case.

If you are facing DUI charges in Sacramento, don't hesitate to contact the Law Offices of John Campanella for a free consultation. John and his team will take the time to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and help you understand your legal options. With their experience and dedication, they can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.


About the Author

John Campanella

I have been representing people accused of drunk driving since I began practicing in 1995. I am active member of the National College of DUI Defense, a member of California DUI Lawyers Association, I am certified by the National Highway and Traffic Association for the administration of Field Sobriety Tests. I regularly attend DUI continuing education of the Bar, have tried over 35 Jury Trials, hundreds of pretrial motions and over 1000 DMV hearings all relating to DUI cases.


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